A week ago, we declared the seven-game stretch at Citi Field against the Nationals and Tigers to be Mickey Callaway’s last stand.
Given a reprieve by the Wilpons and a wobbly vote of confidence by Brodie Van Wagenen, the general manager who didn’t hire him, Callaway deserved the week. If the Mets rolled over again, as they did during the embarrassing sweep in Miami, then we figured the clubhouse tribe had spoken. It would be time for the Jim Riggleman Era to begin.
So with that in mind and the Mets fully aware of Callaway’s shaky future, here’s the bottom line: They went 6-1 for the club’s best homestand (of at least seven games) since 2015.
Are the Nationals and Tigers terrible? Sure. Was the weekend more of a struggle than we expected? Absolutely. And if not for plate umpire Jerry Meals giving Edwin Diaz a few extra inches off the outside corner on Sunday’s game-ending punchout of JaCoby Jones that sealed the 4-3 victory over the Tigers, who knows what rabbit hole everyone goes down.
But we’re not going to get all Negative Nelly on a decidedly mixed-bag week for the Mets, who emerged from crisis mode to climb back to .500 and leave us open to the possibility that this year still can be salvaged.
“I don’t want to say it saved our season, but we needed this,” Dominic Smith said. “This was definitely much needed.”
As for Callaway’s fate, team officials now are comfortable pulling him back from the brink. The Code Red has been called off.
If you wanted to count that Marlins debacle against him, then you have to throw him a bone for the Mets rallying on multiple nights to sweep the Nats.
The Tigers series was less convincing, as the Mets took two of three with only a plus-1 run differential. Noah Syndergaard was a no-show in Friday’s loss, they needed 13 innings to outlast Detroit in the middle game and they barely hung on for Sunday’s win, courtesy of Zack Wheeler pitching into the eighth and Adeiny Hechavarria’s second three-run homer in three days.
The Mets showed some resourcefulness, too. In the fourth inning, Todd Frazier proved worthy of his roster spot with a heads-up, shift-beating, half-swing bunt that skipped through the empty right side to drive in their first run.
“I think it sparked us,” Frazier said of his creative bunt thingie.
There were other positive signs. Jeurys Familia rediscovered his bowling-ball sinker with two strikeouts that stranded a pair of Tigers in the eighth inning. Michael Conforto was activated from the concussion list to return to rightfield, an encouraging sight even if he went 0-for-3. Smith, who started in place of the resting Pete Alonso, reached base three times.
When attaching significance to the week, it’s important to remember that the Mets were playing shorthanded. Seth Lugo is out, Conforto missed all but Sunday’s finale and Robinson Cano (quadriceps) sidelined himself after finally busting it hard from home plate. With Jeff McNeil (hamstring) and Brandon Nimmo (neck) on the IL for most of the homestand, Van Wagenen had to rely on Syracuse imports Carlos Gomez and Rajai Davis, along with Aaron Altherr, whom he just claimed off waivers.
Each homered at a critical point, and it was Hechavarria — signed to a minor-league deal in March — who was the unlikely hero in Sunday’s victory.
The Mets may not be winning in ways that we originally expected, or with the players we anticipated, but it’s a good sign for them that the front office has been vigilant enough to shuttle these reinforcements in and out from upstate.
That’s one of the key takeaways from the week. Not so much the subpar competition, but the roster depth the Mets deployed to get the job done.
“It would have been easy for most organizations to fold at that point,” Callaway said of the team’s snowballing injuries. “We were not only competitive, we went 6-1. They just willed it to happen.”
Now the Mets go up a few weight classes with their trip to Chavez Ravine for a four-game series against the defending National League champion Dodgers followed by three more in Arizona. At least they’ve managed to hold our attention to Memorial Day, to still believe in what we thought might be possible. A week ago, that wasn’t a given.